Terra Summa, Red Blend

Terra Summa, Red BlendThanks to all of our nouveau hippie friends, I’ve been keeping my eye out for organic wine that’s actually good to drink. Like regular wine, there’s a vast array of organic wine, and it’s growing. So when I find an organic wine that’s actually good, I pounce like a cat on a lizard sitting in the sun.

The first time I had a bottle of the Terra Summa (red label, I think it was a merlot), the price was somewhere above $10. And I thought it was just about worth that. Not striking, but drinkable and consistent in flavor. And then I saw it on sale 2-for-1 at our local Publix. What the heck. Two extra bottles of a decent wine for the rack would be nice. I noticed the price had dropped other places as well. It seemed like over night, the average price went from about $11 to $6.

Not to be dramatic, but this is a very nice bottle of wine for that price range. Especially if it’s organic.

Not that price determines how good it is. I’d put this on our wine rack next to Our Daily Red as a good weekday dinner wine because it’s tasty, affordable, and fairly mellow. And it’s consistently good. As opposed to some of the wines you buy knowing that every few bottles, you’re going to get one that’s a bit funky.

Another measure for a weekday dinner wine is how long it stays drinkable. The simple truth is that The Man and I are not the roaring young drinkers we once were. Age and responsibility have crept up (oh don’t get me started!). It’s no longer an option to drink a bottle of wine with dinner and another one after dinner. Don’t even try to broach the subject of liquor on a “school night”. Not that I personally ever tried to get as drunk as humanly possible. But there were times in my youth that I had a drink too many and was still able to get up the next day for class or work, and function. Not so much anymore.

So it’s nice to open a bottle of wine while we’re starting to cook dinner, and sip on it through the night until we start falling asleep in front of the TV… oh, I mean, until we decide it’s time for bed. We never fall asleep in front of the TV. Never.

A good bottle of wine for this kind of slow sipping is one that will be drinkable right away instead of requiring decanting to breathe first. And it will tolerate being open for a while without oxidizing badly (that taste it gets that’s like licking a rusty tin can). Terra Summa seems to hold up well to these expectations.

I’ve googled this wine in an attempt to learn more about its origin, but can’t find much about it beyond other people blogging about it and their own suggestions about where it’s from. These tend to conflict. The Terra Summa website is a single page that just lists the red and blue label varieties. Some people say Tree of Life brought this line to the market. The label says it’s imported by Natural Merchants LLC, who admit to Trantas and Air but not Terra Summa. That, combined with the price drop are suspicious to me.

It’s still a good wine at a very comfortable price. The one we had the other night was the Classic Spanish Red Blend, 2008. And I have a merlot on the rack. In the Classic red label line, there is also a chard, a white blend, and a cab. The blue label Premium line has an Italian red blend, a pinot, and a tempranillo. There’s a rumor on the wind about a third line that is “no sulfites added”.

This 2008 Red Blend was nice and mellow, with an even balance of fruit and chocolate notes. There is more complexity to the finish of the wine than the rest of the flavor curve. The chocolate ends as a nice coffee flavor, and the fruity notes fade out to a low, dark berry blend. It goes very well with Mediterranean cooking as well as some of the more mild Mexican dishes, but it probably wouldn’t hold up well against something too spicy. It’s definitely not the most talkative person at the table, but it’s intriguing enough that people would stop to listen when it had something to say.

Terra Summa
Classic Spanish Red Blend, 2008
Organic, 75% Spanish Tempranillo / 25% Cabernet Savingon
$5-7 per bottle (red label varieties)


Almagre Crianza Rioja 2001

Almagre Crianza Rioja 2001It’s clear that this wine was aged for a significant time in oak barrels. It is not shy about that. There is an undeniably masculine forwardness to the strength and depth of this flavor throughout this wine.

Alamgre produces this tempranillo in the infamous La Rioja region of Spain. It is a red crianza, meaning it is aged at least two years, one of them in oak barrels. This one tastes like it was born into the primordial soup in oak barrels and left to age since. Considering they’ve been making wine in this region since at least 873 A.D., it’s quite possible.

There’s a lot of emotion and effort being put into world foods these days, preserving a region’s food heritage by legally protecting the name. ‘Protected Geographical Status‘ means you can only buy Stilton in that name if it was made in one of three counties in England, and ouzo has to have been made in Greece or Cyprus. Rioja wine has to come from the La Rioja region of Spain. There’s a fancy label and authentication sticker on this bottle to verify this.

Alongside being of authentic origin, this Almagre is also certified organic. Not that I look for this specifically, but I like to have a bottle or two of organic wine on hand for those of my friends who feel very deeply about this topic. I would prefer to have organic food as a serious option in my life as well, but reality is much more stingy with me on time and money.

This 2001 Almagre was about $8 locally. The label looks like something designed in MS Word by someone who still uses a dial-up modem. But I don’t judge by the label, and neither should you. I take that back. I tend to shy away from the overly slick or kitschy labels for fear that money had been spent on marketing instead of wine-making.

If this wine was a cat, it would be an un-fixed male Tom cat. I find tempranillos tend to be mild, so this one threw me for a loop with its bold oak, dust, and leather flavors. A sparse but intense mood. It reminded me of when I lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas (that’s Cal-i-for-ni-ay or you Easterners). There was no rainfall in these hills through the summer, so by August everything had been dried and bleached the color of straw. Even the air. Outside at midday all you could smell was the dry grasses, the oak trees and the dusty earth. It permeated you until you felt like you were a dense, stoic, silent manzanita tree. This wine absolutely brought me back there, and this is what I imagine it would feel like to stand in the vineyard in Spain as well.

I enjoyed this wine on its own, over conversation with a friend. I did bring out some lovely green grapes that had been chilling in the fridge, and they seemed to balance out the masculinity of the wine. After a few grapes, a sip of wine tasted almost like frankincense–rich and dark and old. Next time I buy a bottle of this (yes there will be a next time), I will consider paring it with an equally bold dinner. Maybe even after dinner with a cigar.

Almagre Crianza Tempranillo
Rioja DOC 2001
12.5% ABV
About $7-8


Beso de Vino, Seleccion 2007

Beso de Vino, Seleccion 2007How can you turn down a wine with a bull and his dangling testicles on the label? Antonio the Bull, to be precise.

The very-cute label and marketing of the wine makes it a great gift for non-wine-aficionados. Antonio the Bull is a cute doodle and there’s a cute story first thing you read on the front of the bottle. It’s a screw-top cap so there’s no messing about with cork screws or gadgets. And it’s very mild, so as not to shock or offend the palette of someone who likes to mix their jug-wine with a little ginger ale or carbonated water to jazz it up.

Despite the overflowing cuteness (yes, I am a cute aficionado as well but prefer to keep that separate from my wine), this is a nice little bottle of wine. We had the Selección 2007 which is a syrah. It seems like later years are mostly syrah with a 15% garnacha blend, so I’d be interested in trying one of these to see what the motivation for altering it was.

I generally lean towards Spanish wines for every-day occasions like week-day dinners, book club meetings, and parties where I know non-wine people will want to be adventurous and sniff the wine. This Beso de Vino is ideal because it’s a $6-9 bottle of decent wine that is mild with an underlying complexity of flavors. You’re not going to shock anyone with it, but you’ll probably not get bored of it quickly either.

It comes out of Aguaron, Spain, an area that is scattered with little towns of 300 people or less. This is in the province of Zaragoza, which has one of those histories where every other week someone else was conquering the place and swaggering around like they invented shoes. The locals generally went about their agricultural business, creating amazing foods and wines, and making up Jota.

The wine itself is deeply colored, almost purple, with an unremarkable fragrance. At first blush, the flavors are very subtle. You almost put the glass down and ask for something else. But like the quiet girl at work who wears glassed and hardly talks, if you give the wine a moment to relax, you start to feel these lovely hints of personality creep up. There are touches of cocoa and dried fruit, and then sweet olives, and maybe a jumble of spices. For just a moment you feel like you’ve been chewing honeysuckle blossoms. And then it’s gone and you want more.

Although the vineyard is well established, the brand is fairly new, and came to the US only a few years ago. A growing number of distributors are carrying this wine, probably because it has great eye-appeal for displays. But don’t let that put you off. The Selección is the highest rated of their offerings, but you might also find Old Vine Garnacha, Macabeo (a white varietal typically used in many Spanish blends), and Garnacha Rosé (um, Valentine’s Day hint hint).

Beso de Vino, Selección 2007
Spanish Syrah, 13.5% ABV
Usually about $6.00-$9.00


Mano a Mano La Mancha, 2007

Mano a Mano 2007

Our door is always open to a bottle of tempranillo, especially when brought by a friend. We knew nothing about this wine when it arrived and promptly pulled the cork. After a first sniff and sip at the inky dark wine, we decided to decant it and let it rest for an hour because of its heavy, grating nose.

It’s always interesting going blind into a bottle since you never know what to expect. Sometimes knowing about the wine taints your impressions of it between your face and your brain. The smells, textures, flavors of the wine are free to be themselves without your waiting for them to perform.

Decanting much improved the experience of this intense tempranillo. It had gorgeous, strong flavors of oak and dry earth, and a finish like the heat of a setting sun fading into the deceptively chilly deep red evening. This was not a refinement of subtle tones, or a fun, flirty blend. There was a wildness to the flavor arc. No smooth curve. More of a flexing and wrestling of similar flavors fighting for dominance. And then cleanly disappearing.

This wine would go well with seared, grilled, dark foods, and a hard, salty cheese. It’s something you drink as a second bottle, fit nicely between two more amicable tempranillos. In research, I’ve found the Mano a Mano is from the La Mancha area of Spain, and is slowly aged in French oak barrels. La Mancha is one of the largest wine-growing areas of the world if you measure in acreage. And tempranillos are quickly gaining huge popularity because they’re great table wine at completely affordable prices.

This bottle of Mano a Mano was quite forward with flavors, and after the rough start, it oxidized deeply near the end of the night. We had switched to a very mellow Our Daily Red wine, and having a sip of the long-settled Mano brought a tear to my eye, I confess.

I would try Mano a Mano again, now that I’m prepared. But it’s not for the weak and inexperienced.

Mano a Mano
2007 Tempranillo
La Mancha, Spain
About $10/bottle


Gladius Tempranillo, 2009

Gladius Tempranillo 2009A bottle of this was given to us at the holidays and since it was unfamiliar, we didn’t jump at opening it right away. But our wine rack was looking kind of sparse the other night and a tempranillo seemed like the right sort of thing to celebrate the close of a long week.

Personally, I was put off by the label because it seemed like more thought might have been put into the design than the wine itself. And there’s just no personality in a grey and black color scheme. But I keep reminding myself not to judge a wine by the label.

So I popped the synthetic cork and chucked that into the blue cork vase. An initial sniff around the rim of the glass had me thinking I’d rather wait or The Man to have a go at it first. It was hugely floral and girly (a big statement from a girl who owns far too much pink in her wardrobe). But The Man handed it back and insisted I have a sip before I wandered off to finish cooking dinner.

It had a lovely, delicate fruit flavor initially, which balanced the flowery fragrance. But that girliness quickly matured into a rush of cedar and oak with solid earthy undertones. It finished pretty clean, leaving only a dry, peppery tingle on the tongue.

This is not something you want to decant or leave sitting open as it oxidizes fairly quickly. The last glass was kind of rough. It was a pretty deep purple wine, definitely leaning towards the blue-purple rather than wine red. I say this because this is not a first date kind of drink. You’l be awkwardly looking at each other’s purple tinted teeth and lips. I was not amused by my tongue being as dark as a chow chow dog’s.

My best friend, Google, had a hard time finding anything about this wine, so I couldn’t begin to tell you a price range except ‘somewhere between $7 and $15’. It’s a Spanish red wine. It’s not half bad. I wouldn’t pay more than $9 for this. I’d probably pair it with something Italian or Mediterranean for dinner and serve it to people without vast wine vocabularies. But yes, I would drink it again.